Buenos Aires tour info April 2010
City Tour in brief
This tour started in Plaza de Mayo historical Square, surrounded by Government House (Casa Rosada), the Metropolitan Cathedral and the old Chapter House (Cabildo), Spanish Viceroys headquarters. Went on along May Avenue (Avenida de Mayo), of strong Spanish influence, then 9 de Julio Avenue, one of the world largest avenues, until arriving the most emblematic symbol of Buenos Aires, the Obelisk (Obelisco), as well as passing by famous Colon Theatre.
Besides toured towards Northeast, reaching the most distinguished city district -Recoleta- with a charming French touch. Later on, toured the bohemian colorful La Boca neighborhood, of Italian immigrants.
Hope you have enjoyed it!
Source: Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires
Wednesday 21st April
1. Plaza de Mayo
Balcarce, Hipólito Yrigoyen, Bolívar, Rivadavia
According to certain versions, Juan of Garay founded the city of the Santísima Trinidad here, on June 11, 1580. From its origin, it had the role of Plaza Mayor and its perimetral streets determined the appearance of a draught-table upon which the city of Buenos Aires was designed. Its contours hold the main headquarters of the public powers: the Fort, the Cabildo and the cathedral. As from 1800, the old Recova divided the area into two squares: Plaza de la Victoria and Plaza del Fuerte. It was an arcade where different shops settled down. The federalization of the City of Buenos Aires helped constitute institutions in the country. The first Mayor of the city, Torcuato of Alvear, wanted to modernize it, leaving its colonial past behind in search of a progressive and Europe-going future. The most debatable decision was the creation of the Plaza de Mayo, since it meant the demolishment of the old Recova, a clear colonial aftertaste.
The Plaza de Mayo was and has been the center of the political life in the country. In 1810, it was the scenario for the Revolución de Mayo, political milestone to start Argentine independence. There, early inhabitants celebrated their more sensitive acts: reconquest of the city (after defeating English invaders in 1806-1807); independence sworn on September 13, 1816; National Constitution enacted on October 21, 1860; concentration of thousands of Argentine inhabitants demanding the liberation of Juan Domingo Perón in 1943; bombing of the aviation during the coup d ‘état attempt in 1955 and claim of Madres de Plaza de Mayo (entity created 30 years ago) for people disappeared during the military government. Today, this square still concentrates all social demonstrations.
At present, in the center of the square, we can admire the Pyramid of May, monument erected to commemorate the first anniversary of the Revolución de Mayo. Opposite to the Pink House (House of Government), the monument in honor to General Manuel Belgrano rises.
During colony time, the Cabildo was the institution which represented the local interests. There, the English officials signed the rendition after the invasion of 1806. In 1810, the Building held the events which would give rise to the Primera Junta de Gobierno and later to the declaration of independence.
The first building was built in 1609, same place, on a lot assigned by Garay when founding the city. The construction of the current building began in 1725 under the direction of Giovanni Andrea Bianchi. The work ended in 1751. The clock was placed in the tower by Genoese watchmaker Andrea Baccigalupo. The building shows two plants, eleven arcades in each level and a central tower. Along the years, the Cabildo suffered successive architectural modifications: in 1879 Pedro Benoît gave an Italian touch to the facade when adding a third body to the tower (afterwards demolished); in 1889, when Avenida de Mayo was to be opened, three arches of the north sector were demolished. In 1931, the design of Diagonal Sur eliminated three arches of the opposite sector.
In 1940, architect Mario Buschiazzo (Jr) minutely restored it, trying to respect original figure. In 1960, architect Alejandro Bustillo enlarged it, giving place to the current patio, with access from Avenida de Mayo and also from Hipólito Yrigoyen.
This building is currently a Museum of the Cabildo and of the Revoluciòn de Mayo, where guided are offered.
3. City Hall
Buenos Aires City Hall is located opposite to the Cabildo (government’s cradle in the colonial century and currently a museum). This is one of the buildings that borders the historical Plaza de Mayo square. Today, it is the seat of Buenos Aires city government. It was formerly the site of the Municipal Intendence. It was built between 1891 and 1902 by the architect Juan Cagnoni. The plot was donated to the General José de San Martín for his military conquests.
When inaugurated, the building dome showed a needle longer than the current one, but it had to be demolished. The French academicist style with Italian elements combine mansard roofs, like many of the buildings on Av. de Mayo avenue.
4. Government House or Pink House
The headquarters of the Executive Power, located in the place where Garay constructed the Fort of Buenos Aires. Through history, it has been frequently remodelled. The current Pink House consists of two buildings, separated by a narrow alley: one was the government's headquarters and the other one, the Palacio de Correos. Both were similar, but not identical. In 1884, Italian architect Tamburini was requested to unite both buildings. The challenge was solved by a central arch which served as a nexus and it became the main access to Plaza de Mayo. Reformations continued for several years, always following blueprints. The facade was built on Avenida Rivadavia altogether with the esplanade (today ceremonial access), the other facade on Paseo Colon and the interiors: the Hall of Honor, the Salon Blanco (currently holding a magnificent glass chandelier from Azzaretto’s in Milan), the big perrons of Carrara marble (one is denominated Italia) and the Patio de las Palmeras, following the style of Renaiscense Italian Palaces. The group is eclectic and rather inharmonic because of the lack of symmetry presented on Balcarce Street, while the north wing stresses the celebrated balcony, a" loggia" of Florentine reminiscences. President Domingo Sarmiento was responsible for the pink painting. He wanted to symbolize the union of the political sectors (the red one, distinctive color for federal party, and the white one for unitary party).
The building, in its current location, has always been the national government's headquarters, from the Primera Junta of 1810. The balcony of the north wing witnessed countless political, social, sport and film events.
This building also holds the Museum of the Government's House. If you step on the park, you can observe the rear facade of the Pink House, work greatly supported by Italian Francesco Tamburini. Between this façade and the park, you will be able to see the archaeological remains of the Aduana Taylor built in 1854. Towards the right, Rivadavia street. On your left, you will be able to watch the access esplanade the president takes to enter the House. Balcarce façade shows the main frontispiece and if you continue walking, you will turn on Yrigoyen street to access the Museum of the Pink House.
5. Metropolitan Cathedral
Rivadavia and San Martin streets
The Metropolitan Cathedral appears magnificent facing Plaza de Mayo, on a lot already allotted by Juan de Garay in 1580. In 1692, construction of three isles and lateral chapels started. In 1727, architect Jesuit Blanqui was commanded the projection of a new facade with two towers, but the interior collapsed in 1752. In 1770, almost concluded, cracks were observed in the dome. Its redoing was decided, under direction of Manuel Alvarez de Rocha.
In 1791, worship started and just in 1822 French architects Prosperous Catelin and Pierre Benoît carried out the current neoclassical piazza, inspired by the Palais Bourbon of Paris. J. Dubourdieu took charge of the ornamentation of the frontispiece between 1860 and 1863. It presents twelve Corinthian columns symbolizing the twelve apostles. In the frontispiece a bas-relief represents Jacob's encounter with its son José in Egypt. The interior of the Cathedral holds five aisles. The main one with a seamless vault and a transept covered by a dome which, on a circular drum, reaches 41 meters high. As from the right lateral aisle, you may access the mausoleum where General San Martin ashes are. It has been designed by the French sculptor Carrier Belleuse.
The interior decoration shows Italian improntas: Francesco Paolo Parisi is the author of the Renaissance frescos.
He decorated the dome, the presbytery, the arms of the transept and the central aisle; these paintings were lost because of the humidity. The sculptor Victor de Pol made the monument to archbishop León Federico Aneiros, in San Martin de Tours chapel, left wing. It is a Carrara marble and stone mausoleum where the prelate’s image while kneeling is centered. Francesco Domenighini was the painter to the fourteen master pieces of the Via Crucis - originally they were at Pilar church -, and Carlo Morra designed the floor in 1907, which was manufactured in England in Venetian mosaic. In the interior you can see the Mausoleum where General José of San Martin’s ashes are.
Av. Corrientes and Av. 9 de Julio
A symbol of Buenos Aires city, the Obelisk was built in May 1936 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first foundation of Buenos Aires. It rises at the place where the Argentine flag was hauled up for the very first time.
It is more than 67 meters high and 49 square meters wide on its base. It has only one entrance and there are four windows at the apex, that you can reach only through a straight staircase of 206 steps.
In order to build the obelisk, 680 cubic meters of concrete were used and 1360 square meters of white stone were brought from the province of Córdoba. In 1938, after some stones got detached, the white stones were completely removed and replaced with polished concrete. The work was in charge of the architect Alberto Prebisch.
It is located at the crossroads of 9 de Julio and Corrientes avenues. Lines C and D of the subway operate under this monument.
7. Teatro Colón
This Theatre is one the most famous lyric houses in the world. Inaugurated in 1908 with “Aida” lyric from Giuseppe Verdi, the theatre has hosted the most important artists of the century. It is provided with a stable company, a ballet, orchestras, workshops, a library and a museum. It is endowed with finest acoustics in opera and a capacity for 3,542 spectators (sitting) and 700 (standing).
The premises cover 8,202 square meters. The building combines Italian, Attic-Greek, German and French Renaissance designs that give this theatre the eclectic style of the XIX century. The main room presents seven levels, horseshoe shaped, 3 boxes, galleries, upper galleries and a top gallery. The construction of the Theatre has taken 20 years and the work was directed by the architects Francesco Tamburini, Vittorio Meano and Jules Dormal.
Thursday 22nd April
1. Mayor Torcuato de Alvear Square
Av. Pueyrredón, Av. Del Libertador, Av. Alvear and Junín street
This is a very important tourist area, surrounded by historical buildings culturally valuable. Its construction dates from beginning of XX century. It was called Camino de la Recoleta, created during Torcuato de Alvear’s Office. He commended its design to German engineer Schübeck who followed the Paris “Bois of Boulogne” pattern.
On the gorge of this area, the Convent of La Recoleta was originally located. With different destinations, finally became an important Cultural Center.
In 1993, next to the Cultural Center, the Buenos Aires Design Center was founded. Here we can find a group of boutiques and business shops devoted to all branches of design, altogether with attractive bars and restaurants.
The thick strong wall of Buenos Aires Design Center shows some sculptures which originally belonged to the Bank of the City of Buenos Aires. These sculptures arrived in Buenos Aires in 1873, from a Genoa atellier. The group was composed of 16 statues allegorically representing the sciences, the arts and the production activity. At the moment, four of those sculptures are placed at San Francisco small square and the remaining twelve decorate Buenos Aires Design Center.
Tourists may visit and enjoy the diverse proposals of street art that nurture with color the movement of the urban landscape. An extensive and traditional fair of local artisans with beautiful handicraft pieces resides there. They offer all type of artistic objects, from paintings to leather, cloth or metal goods.
2. La Recoleta CementeryJunín 1790
The premises where today the cemetery is, were part of a bigger extension granted by Juan de Garay to Rodrigo Ortiz de Zárate, member of the colonysing expedition. It had been owned by different people, till the marriage of Don Fernando de Valdéz e Inclán and Doña Gregoria de Herrera y Hurtado who donated them so that a convent in charge of the Padres Recoletos may be settled there. This convent was inaugurated in 1732, same year when the Church of Nuestra Señora del Pilar was concluded. Beside it, the orchard of the monks.
The use of the place as a public cemetery followed the expulsion of the monks Recoletos (this was due to a General Reform of the Ecclesiastical Order. The orchard became a cemetery, qualified for that on November 17, 1822.
The layout of the cemetery was designed by French engineer Prospero Catelin, and was remodelled by request of Mayor Torcuato de Alvear in 1881 who commended it to architect Juan Antonio Buschiazzo.
Its almost six hectares seat the ashes of eminent people, warriors of the independence, presidents of the Republic, writers, science men and fine arts representatives. They were buried in vaults and mausoleums built in many cases by important architects who ornamented them with sculptures.
Evita’s mausoleum is located in this cemetery.
3. National Congress
Entre Ríos and Rivadavia
Greek-roman styled, this building displays perfect proportion. Inaugurated in 1906, architect Meano’s project pursued an aesthetic concept involving three main ideas: academicism, eclecticism and classic style. This three-way condition makes out a typical and paradigmatic early XX century layout of this building. Italian origin (renaecentist) and afterwards French (Paris´ Ecole des Beaux Arts-inspired).
Lower house (254 deputies) and Senate (72 senators).
4. Lezama Park - Patio of sculptures and amphitheater
Located in the neighborhood of San Telmo, its street limits are Defense, Brasil, Av. Paseo Colon, and Av. Martin García, on a natural gorge. Some people affirm that the first establishment of this city took place in these suburbs. Paul Groussac opposes to this conclusion, since he states it took place at Vuelta de Rocha. At the end of the XVIII century, the Royal Company of Philippines settled the deposit of black slaves down in the park. In 1806, during the First English Invasion, General Beresford entered through San Martin Street (today Defensa) devastating the last local forces on the Barranca de Marcó (today Lezama Park). Years later, the English David MacKinley installed his week-end cottage at this place, opposite the river. On the building the English flag was hoisted, and for that reason people got used to call it “the Englishmen cottage” (La Quinta de los Ingleses). After successive owners, in 1857, Mr Jose Gregorio Lezama, a tradesman from Salta, acquired the property, surrounded it with a high fence of iron grills and enriched the forest atmosphere with exotic plants and trees. Towards 1871, during the yellow fever epidemic, the residence was operated as a Lazaretto and in June of same year, its owner recovers it. In 1889, when Lezama dies, his widow Angela Álzaga proposes the Mayor to sell the premises to the Community, with the commitment of being a public park. It took then the name of Parque Lezama.
5. Boca Jrs. Stadium
This football club is, along with River Plate, the most popular in Argentina and one of the most important and successful in the world. Founded by Italians immigrants in 1905, its definitive colours were allegedly taken from the Swedish flag of a ship entering Buenos Aires harbor. The stadium is also known as “La Bombonera” due to its chocolates box shape and can host around 50,000 spectators.
6. CaminitoGaribaldi and Olavarría
This is an open air street-museum that recreates the typical conventillos (housing projects) of the early La Boca neighborhood. Today, you can permanently enjoy a wide variety of exhibitions formed by national and foreign artists. Originally, this footpath, of almost 100 meters long, was part of the Ensenada railway station. Then, it became one of the most interesting sightseeing areas in Buenos Aires city. Every weekend, tango shows are offered by professional tango dancers and singers. You can also visit a handicraft market.
As time went by, traditional artists started to provide the walls with bas-reliefs and mosaics together with statues, friezes and tablets. Thus, in 1959, Caminito became the first pedestrian museum in the world, with no pavements or gates.
6. Iglesia Sueca (Swedish Church)
Kyrkoherde i BsAs. Nils Bååthe kämpade länge för att få en klassisk kyrka byggd på Azopardo och bredvid den Johnsons Minne för sjöfolk. Biskop Torsten Ysander invigde kyrkan 1945.
7. El Viejo AlmacénBalcarce and Av. Independencia